Oven-Baked Beef Stew

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My first post in two months…and it has meat!!!  I know, I’m breaking my cooking with veggies motto, but I swear there are tasty vegetables in this stew.  In central California, we’ve been having a string of hot weather (not surprised, are you?), and yesterday the temperatures finally dipped.  I was craving something warm and with gravy.  Growing up, stew and pot roast were some of my favorite dishes, so using what I remember of those recipes, I created this dutch oven baked stew.  The results were delicious!

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As with all recipes, I’m convinced that quality majorly matters.  Because I rarely cook with meat, I sprang for the good stuff.  I now remember that I do not cook with meat for two main reasons: the quality meat that I am willing to purchase is very expensive (I could get the same weight of lentils for $1.50) and meat takes a long time to do right!  However, at my local co-op, I found grass fed local beef.  When I first opened the package, I was afraid that it would be a little tough in the final product, because I didn’t see much marbling or fat.  But let me assure you, the meat was tender, flavorful, and melt in your mouth.

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The rest of my ingredients were top notch as well.  I mean, Guinness draft is always amazing.  The jar of tomatoes was canned from my summer garden harvest, and they were delicious.  My produce (except for mushrooms) came from my produce delivery.  I used purple potatoes, which were bright and vibrant in the beginning, but turned pale after almost two hours of baking.

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Pre-oven baking

Lastly, I originally added all of the veggies at once before sticking the dutch oven in to bake.  As the carrots and potatoes turned out a little too mushy for my texture palate, follow the directions as listed.  I’m sure that your veggies will be in much better shape than mine were.

Post oven baking

Post-oven baking

Oven-Baked Beef Stew – makes 4 hearty servings; 2 hours cook time

1/4 c. flour

1.25 – 1.5 lbs. stew meat

2 tbsp. olive oil

small onion, sliced or diced (depending on your texture preference)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 bottle Guinness (or similar beer)

14 oz. can stewed tomatoes

2 c. beef or vegetable broth

1 tsp. thyme

8 oz. button mushroom, quartered

3-4 large carrots, sliced into 1″ pieces

1 lb. new potatoes, quartered

1 c. frozen peas

salt and pepper to taste

Put the flour in a zip-lock bag, adding a bit of salt and pepper to your liking.  In two batches, toss the pieces of stew meat, coating them completely.  Heat your dutch oven, or oven-safe pot with lid, over medium heat on the stove.  Add the olive oil.  In two batches, brown the stew meat, setting the browned meat to the side on a plate.

If needed, add a touch more oil to your dutch oven.  Again, over medium heat, add the onions.  Saute until starting to turn translucent.  Add the minced garlic, cooking for one more minute.  Bring the meat back in to the mix, stirring to combine with the onions and garlic.

Pour in the beer and stir to deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven.  Once deglazed, add the tomatoes, broth, mushrooms and thyme, bringing the mixture to a boil.  Cover with an oven-safe lid and put into your oven, which should be preheated to 350 degrees.  Let bake for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, take the dutch oven out, adding the carrots and potatoes.  Return to the oven to bake for about 45 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender to your liking.  Finally, remove from oven and stir in the frozen peas.  Taste your gravy (which should be thick by now) and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Parsley makes a really nice and fresh garnish for such a dish, but the peas provide a nice burst of color, so I didn’t worry about it.  Enjoy 🙂

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Roasted Garlic and Chickpea Soup

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School has been back in full swing for a month now.  Time has been going slowly, things are very busy, and I am getting used to all of my new students and classes.  When I come home at the end of the day, all I want to do is relax.  However, I’ve had papers to grade, an exercise routine to try to get back into (I really should be trying harder), and food to prepare and eat.

I’ve been cooking up a storm – quiche, curry, soups, casseroles – but I haven’t had the mental energy to come up with anything new and exciting.  In fact, I still haven’t.  But at least tonight’s dinner is a recipe I’ve never tried before.  After another long and trying day, I wanted something easy, simple, delicious.

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The answer to my desires was a tasty soup.  I don’t care that it topped out in the high 90s in Sacramento today, as always, I wanted soup.  The recipe on Weekday Vegetarian was the answer to my hungry prayers.  I follows it pretty much exactly.  However, I decided to change the flavors slightly.  Instead of simply mincing the garlic, I roasted a whole clove of garlic to deepen and sweeten the flavor.  To make it more herbaceous, I also used a little more rosemary than the original recipe called for.

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When I repeat this recipe, and I will be, I’ll use a full two cloves of roasted garlic.  While the garlic takes on a much sweeter flavor when it is roasted, it also loses some of its potency.  I would have like to have a bit more of that flavor in the dish, but overall, it was just what I was looking for tonight.

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I’m Back and Cooking: Pasta with Roasted Green Beans and Feta

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I have not posted in months, I know.  Summer took me from Baja, Mexico, to Fort Bragg, CA, to LA, to Portland, OR, to Seattle, WA, and everywhere in between.  Plans are in the works for a post or two regarding the wonderful food and drink I encountered along the way.  Until then, I would like to share the first dinner I’ve cooked for myself in at least eight weeks.  It’s been sad not cooking, but wonderful to eat out and experience things beyond my skill level.

Today was my first contract day back at work, so I knew I wanted something quick when I got home.  I also didn’t want to buy many things at the store, especially produce, as I’m expecting a wonderful produce delivery tomorrow!  So, I decided on pasta. What is more simple than pasta?  I even threw in the use of the oven, and this is still easy.  When you only have a short amount of time, then try this recipe.  You won’t be disappointed.  AND if you want to cheat because you don’t even have time to roast the green beans, simply put them in with the pasta to cook all in one pot!

The secret to a making a simply pasta amazing is the quality of the ingredients.  When buying my green beans, I made sure I was that shopper who went through and picked only the best from the bin.  Then, I decided to up my protein and try out corn/quinoa pasta.*  Lastly, and to me most importantly (because I love cheese), the feta.  You can use a crumbled feta like you find in every grocery store, but for a pasta, I prefer brined, block feta.  It has a more solid texture that will not melt and break down as quickly as the pre-crumbled variety.  Just know that your feta, if the crumbled kind, will become more of a sauce instead of remaining in lovely chopped up pieces.


*A note on the pasta I chose: I loved the flavor.  It was nutty and worked well with the roasted green beans.  However, I did not like its texture with the dish.  It was hard to mix the other ingredients in, and everything didn’t just come together.  The next time I will try a whole wheat pasta, and if I still don’t like that, I’ll go back to a regular pasta! Live and learn.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Pasta with Roasted Green Beans and Feta (makes 4 servings)

8 oz. pasta (I used spaghetti, but any noddle will do)

1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut to 2″ pieces

large shallot, sliced thinly

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 oz. feta (crumbled or diced by hand)

2 tbsp olive oil

zest of one lemon

black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and get a pot of water on to boil.  Prepare pasta according to directions.

Toss together the green beans, shallots, and 2 tbsp. of olive oil, making sure to coat the beans evenly.  Line a baking sheet with foil, then pour your green beans out.  Roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on how crunchy or softened you want your beans.

After pasta is cooked and drained, return it to the pot.  Add the roasted green beans and shallots, the feta, additional 2 tbsp. of olive oil, and lemon.  Season with pepper to taste.  You should not need salt…the feta will take care of that!

Enjoy 🙂

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June Foodie Pen Pals!

After missing the deadline to sign up in May, here I am back with a wonderful delivery from my June  Foodie Pen Pals exchange.  This month I was paired with Gisele from Ohio, and I received some very perfectly timed items.


This summer is a busy one for me.  You will see few – if any – posts (as if you’ve seen any recently), because I will be traveling up and down the West coast and to Mexico!  That leaves little time for cooking.  BUT, part of that travelling has been and will be camping.

The Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain cereal with almonds and the organic trail mix went camping with my family and I last week.  Even those who are not inclined to eat bird seed (as the men called the trail mix) loved these two items!  The trail mix was taken on picnics and used for snacking, and the cereal was combined with yogurt and fresh berries for breakfast.

The Good Greens and Raw Evolutions bars will be accompanying me as I roadtrip/camp on the way home from a friend’s wedding in August.  I’m looking forward to trying them out as a quick snack on the trail or on the road.  The same with the fruit leathers…my how I love fruit leather!

Lastly, the Newman’s Own dark chocolate did not last 24 hours in my house after receiving my package from Gisele.  I ate the whole bar in one sitting.  Pure happiness in chocolate form 🙂

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Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Asiago Soufflé



For years I’ve avoided attempting the infamous soufflé.  When I started cooking, the idea of a soufflé was something to look forward to, something to aspire to, and something to run from.  In movies, TV, culinary folk lore, soufflés are the test of a great chef.  You constantly hear that they’re touchy.  That if you over beat the egg whites, they result will be disastrous.  And don’t even dare peak while it’s baking or slam the oven door!  When my the high school culinary class that I teach asked if we could make soufflés, I admitted that I had never made one in my life.




Last year, the idea of baking a soufflé took on new meaning.  Thanks to Steven Moffat, I had the irrational fear that if I started baking soufflés it meant that my mind was suppressing some unspeakable horror.  That if I didn’t pay attention, it would be found that I, myself, had been turned into a Dalek.  I did not want to become “Soufflé Girl.”  Plus, where would I get all of the eggs?!?  Thanks, Moffat.




Finally, on a hot, 96-degree day, I decided to move past my feat and conquer the soufflé!  I based my recipe off of a recipe from Eating Well, and made a few minor tweaks.  This was the result.


Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Asiago Soufflé

Fine, dry breadcrumbs

4 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed

1/2 c. goat cheese

1/2 c. finely grated Asiago cheese

1/4 tsp. pepper

3/4 c . milk

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. flour

2 egg yolks

4 egg whites


Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Coat four 10-ounce ramekins or a 2 1/2-quart soufflé dish (or similar-size baking dish) with cooking spray. Sprinkle with enough breadcrumbs to generously coat the inside, tilting to evenly distribute; tap out excess. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

Press thawed spinach in a fine sieve until very dry, then finely chop. Combine the chopped spinach in a bowl with Asiago, goat cheese, and black pepper.

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Melt butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until the mixture is the consistency of thick batter, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated. Whisk in the spinach mixture.

Clean and dry a large mixing bowl and beaters, making sure there are no traces of oil. (Any fat in your egg whites may prevent your soufflé from rising properly.) Beat egg whites in the bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add salt; gradually increase speed to high and beat until shiny and stiff, but not dry. Do not over beat: stop when the egg whites hold their shape in the bowl and on the beater but don’t look overly dry or lumpy.

Using a rubber spatula, stir one-third of the whites into the egg-yolk mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites just until evenly distributed. It’s OK if a few white streaks remain. Spoon the batter into the prepared dish(es).

Bake until puffed and firm to the touch, 20 to 24 minutes for 10-ounce soufflés, 38 to 42 minutes for a 2 1/2-quart soufflé. (Resist the temptation to take a peek until the last 5 minutes of baking—an open oven door will let in too much cool air and may interrupt the rising.) Once out of the oven, even a beautifully puffed soufflé will slowly deflate, so go directly to the table to show off its beauty, then serve it at once.

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April Foodie Pen Pal!

This month, my delivery was from Tennessee!  Truthfully, I want these amazing products to speak for themselves.


Included this month from my pen pal Mallory was the following:

Loveless Cafe Biscuit Mix

Strawberry-Fig Preserves

Home-Canned Tomato Relish

Salt and Pepper Dark Chocolate

Goo-Goo Cluster

Because I’ve had a sweet tooth recently, the only things I’ve tried since my package arrived has been the dark chocolate and the goo-goo cluster.  The dark chocolate is heavenly, yet daunting.  You have to be in the right mood for a salt and pepper chocolate.  But let me tell you, the right mood is after you’ve indulged in a nice dinner and want just a little hint of something new to finish off the meal.  Surprisingly delicious.

And the goo-goo cluster.  That tastes like candy, and I don’t keep candy around my apartment for a reason.  So indulgent, so rich, so fluffy.  Amazing.  That’s all I have to say.

I cannot wait to make the biscuits and try both of the canned goods.  I’ll report back when I do 🙂

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Impromptu Stir Fry – tofu, mushrooms, bok choy, and more!



Stir fry is like many of my other favorite meals to cook – versatile, easy, and full of endless possibilities.  Like quiche, pastas, hash, and many more, stir fry is developed out of what is on hand, and it also offers a great way to combine lots of veggies and good, lean protein.  You can season stir fry any way you want, but the staples – garlic, ginger, soy sauce – are always great to use.




The base and inspiration for this stir fry were mushrooms that I received in my last two produce deliveries.  Two weeks ago, I was surprised to find that my package of “assorted mushrooms,” as the CSA website promised I would receive, were in fact  miatake mushrooms.  Sometimes known as hen of the woods mushrooms, these are some of my favorites!  I especially like them in soups and stir frys.  They have a softer texture and a wonderful, amazing, gamy flavor.   The miatake mushrooms were paired with this week’s delivery of white beech mushrooms.  These are the perfect foil to the miatake.  They hold their texture, and what a solid, yet creamy texture they have, surprisingly well for a small mushroom.  They do not get slimy, as traditional white buttons can, and they offer a mild, but nutty flavor.


White beech mushrooms on the left, miatake on the right.

White beech mushrooms on the left, miatake on the right.


All of the other veggies that I tossed in were also courtesy of my CSA.  The bok choy was fresh and delicious, and I’ve spoiled by the privilege of cooking with nice spring onions and green garlic!  Of course, if you don’t have spring onions or green garlic, replace their quantities with the usuals.




What you’ll need:

2 tsp. vegetable oil

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 large carrot, sliced into rounds

4 small spring onions, thinly sliced

2 heads green garlic, thinly sliced

1 tsp. minced ginger, about 1″ fresh

3 baby bok choy, roughly chopped

8 oz. mushrooms

10 oz. firm tofu, cubed in 1/2″ pieces

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. fish sauce

1 tsp. brown sugar


How you do it:

In a large skillet or wok, heat the vegetable and sesame oils.  Add the carrots and let cook for about 3 minutes (they’ll be in there for the duration of cooking, so no need to wait and let them get tender).  Add in the onion and green garlic, cooking for 1 minutes.  Stir in the ginger for a brief 30 seconds, making sure it doesn’t burn.  Next, the bok choy – stir until the leaves are slightly wilted.  The mushrooms will take up a lot of room, so make sure things have reduced down.  Add the mushroom and cook until the beech mushrooms start to soften.  Lastly, stir in the tofu.

In a small bowl, which together the soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar.  Reduce the stir fry to a medium on the stove, pouring in the sauce mixture.  Let simmer, stirring, until the tofu is heated through, the mushrooms are tender, and the sauce has reduced a bit.

Serve over rice – brown or white – and garnish with a pinch of sesame seeds.

Enjoy 🙂

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